Three years of trying and finally I bagged a table that wasn’t 5.30 or 10.30 on a Tuesday night. Back when Dabbous opened it was the go-to restaurant for contemporary cooking in London. There was a buzz surrounding the restaurant, and the chef, Oliver Dabbous, who was being touted as the man to take the London restaurant scene in a new adventurous direction. It made it virtually impossible to get a reservation. Now the hype has died down and there are other restaurants with a similar style of cooking like The Clove Club, The Typing Room and Portland, but after eating there this still feels as fresh and new as anything I’ve tried in London recently. With tables now easier to get, there are few restaurants I can recommend more.
The decor is deliberately minimal with exposed bricks and pipes, which fits the menu which only has two choices- a Tasting Menu (£68) or a set Dinner Menu (£56)- both with no choice over which dishes you are getting. It’s a ballsy brand of cooking that has no place to hide if it doesn’t deliver. But Dabbous absoloutely pulls it off.
A starter of Fennel with lemon balm and olive oil, placed all it’s emphasis on the central ingredient. The cooking was exact and precise, and it quite simply was the best that this ingredient could be. Caesar mushroom shavings with lesser calamint, pine nuts and bitter leaves, was a clean and fresh dish, with waves of flavour in each bite. First a barbecued earthy flavour from the mushrooms and pine nuts, and then a herbal peppermint wash from the lesser calamint. It was familiar and yet surprising, a dish that seemed so simple with very little actual cooking, but takes an excellent kitchen to execute.
Next Lard on toast with black truffles (£9 supplement) was a dish I wanted to hate. Served on a black slate there was nothing to distract from the fact that with a few shavings of truffle you’re looking at a £20 slice of toast. But it just tasted so good- creamy and fatty and then the luxury of the truffle coming through.
Cornish squid with butterhead lettuce and clover was again a winning combination. The shrimp has been shredded so that it resembled noodles and served in a buttery, nutty sauce. Best of all was barbecued Iberico pork that was trimmed of all fat and cooked perfectly. An acorn praline and radishes provided the added crunch and the sharpness from the crushed green apples brought the dish together. It was a faultless plate of food.
A pre-dessert of iced lovage was surprisingly refreshing and then the only dish that didn’t blow me away- milk pie infused with fig leaves. It was a little bland and stodgy- the milk sauce was too thin and only had the faintest hint of the fig leaves, and its texture was a bit like half-baked croissant dough. The sort of dessert you’d eat if you’d left you dentures and palate back in the house.
The meal came to over £100 a head but on the cooking and service was as good as any high end restaurant. So often a tasting menu can drag- this was a seamless experience, bang on two hours. There may be hotter tables to get in London now, but this still feels like some of the boldest best cooking in the city. I only hope it’s not three years until I next dine here.
39 Whitfield St, London WIT 2SF